Warren’s World: Are Photo Christmas Cards Here to Stay?

By Beacon Staff

Christmas and New Year’s have come and gone and there is no reason to stay up after midnight again until Dec. 31, 2009, unless you are stuck in Sunday night traffic driving home from a ski weekend somewhere.

My Christmas was fantastic with a more-than-usual amount of Christmas cards because of the new trend in design. It seems as though cell phones and Blackberries have created a new generation of instant photographers of almost anything unimportant.

Up until this year I received beautiful, colorful, thought-provoking Christmas cards. They were full of snowflakes, Santa Claus, reindeer, winter paintings of snow-covered homes and barns. The religious words were well written and thought provoking.

There has been a big change. With cell phone cameras and computer printers, it is a contest to see who can send a photo Christmas card of two or more people standing or sitting in the most exotic location on earth. The people in the photos often have a Mai Tai or a beer in their hands. The sun is setting over the ocean or the mountain in the background and the message usually says something in the native language of the location of the photo. Unless you are a native of that portion of Latvia, Israel, Indonesia, Tahiti, Patagonia or Hawaii, or you-name-it mountain in the background, you don’t understand what it says.

I can sympathize with the senders. They want the world to know that they had enough time and money to travel that far and, for a 42-cent stamp and an evening at the computer, have created their annual Christmas card in next year’s bathing suits. It is a much better message than the traditional, “Here’s what our XYZ family did last year,” printed in six-point type that you can’t read without a magnifying glass and strong light bulb.

We did get a dozen or so cards from what I assumed were old but unrecognizable friends. That’s because the friends were not in the photos, but their six children and 23 grandchildren were. And even though they signed it, they forget that I can’t remember anyone’s name anymore.

One Christmas card had a picture of the Great Wall of China with four dots in the foreground and greetings from Jenny, Penny, Ricky, and Nicky. Another was from an old friend of mine who was a copy writer for an advertising agency in San Francisco. His four kids had been named Reed, Wright, Page and Story. The four of them had four kids each, but only one of the families could afford the Tahiti vacation photo. They were on the beach with Mai Tais in hand and sent “Christmas Greetings” from Stormy, Windy, Dusty, and Reiny.

Soon after Christmas I went to celebrate Boyne Mountain’s 60th anniversary and did a book signing. Some of the 20- or 30-year-olds have been given names that even when they tell me how to spell them, I still don’t get it right. Their parents gave them some weird spelling of a simple name such as Gretchen, but spelled it with two Ts and an I. Some parents do anything to make the child different enough to have to spend a disproportionate amount of time in their life telling people how to spell their names. When I ask them, “Why don’t you just have your name legally changed to a conventional spelling?” They reply, “My mother wouldn’t like it.” For an exercise, calculate how much time that person will waste in a lifetime correcting the spelling of their name which was spelled wrong in the first place.

But back to Christmas and the great gifts it has to offer: a chance for a grown man (me) to get out his electric train and run it around the tree a couple of hundred times and to ski on new powder snow, which is the greatest gift of all to anyone who has ever made a turn on the side of a hill on anything that slides.

I know it is winter and I know it snows in the winter, but in the last three weeks we have had only four days of sunshine here in Montana. I’m looking forward to the late Christmas gift of sunshine, powder snow, comfortable ski boots, and the right wax all under a cobalt-blue sky.

Just before I flew to Michigan to celebrate Boyne’s 60th anniversary, the temperature was 15 degrees below zero. By the next afternoon the temperature was 30 degrees above zero, and the next day it was 42 degrees and the wind was gusting as high as 75 MPH. The ski lifts were shut down for the day but the next day had no wind and almost Palm Springs weather.

Weather at this time of year is really screwy. I’m just glad there is still snow so that I still have my own special Christmas card outside my door.